It’s a busy week at Abelhaus as we prepare to leave for Germany on Friday. I can’t tell you how excited I am. We’ll arrive on Saturday and then it’ll be a whirlwind of events and adventures.
We’ll visit a Christmas market or two, check out a few Kölsch breweries and enjoy some excellent German bites. My lovely MIL, Magda, will be celebrating a milestone birthday, so there’s even a party for her in the mix.
Though there’s a lot to wrap up before we leave, there’s still plenty of time for cookies. Vanillekipferl, to be precise.
Vanillekipferl are a classic German Christmas cookie. Delicately flavored with vanilla and almonds, the crumbly, buttery cookies literally melt in your mouth.
I was first introduced to Vanillekipferl by our friends Alex and Jeannette. Alex, a native of Mannheim, Germany, makes these cookies every Christmas. I saw these gorgous crescents on the holiday cookie tray and helped myself to one. I soon went back for another. And then another. Then, just one more. And maybe one more after that. Soon, I had eaten at least five or six. They’re addictive, to say the least.
I knew I had to bake this holiday favorite for the annual Food Blogger Cookie Swap. Now in its fourth year, the Food Blogger Cookie Swap is an annual fundraiser with proceeds going to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, a nonprofit that funds research grants to five of the nation’s leading pediatric cancer centers.
I sent a dozen Vanillakipferl to new food blogger friends across the country: Lauren of Healthy.Delicious in Albany, New York; Cyndi at My Kitchen Craze in Palm Desert, California; and Elizabeth at Cooking with Milton in Boston.
These cookies are simple to mix together, but require a little patience once the shaping begins.
When I say they’re buttery, I’m not kidding. One batch of these babies contains three entire sticks of butter. Please don’t calculate the calories; I don’t want to know. Besides, everyone knows that cookie calories during the holidays don’t count anyway.
In addition to all that butter, the dough is enriched with ground almonds. Vanilla sugar and pure vanilla extract provide a smooth vanilla punch, while lemon zest adds a touch of brightness.
After an hour or so in the fridge to chill, the cookies are shaped into crescents and baked. To finish, they’re dusted heavily with powered sugar and a sprinkle of crushed vanilla bean.
One of my favorite ways to learn new cooking techniques is with YouTube. For secrets on shaping Vanillekipferl, check out this video.
Vanilla sugar is readily available in German grocery stores, but can be difficult to find in the United States. I recently found packages of the German brand in an Asian grocery store, of all places.
Protip: Make your own vanilla sugar. In a small container with a lid, add 1-2 cups of sugar. Split a vanilla bean (or two) using a paring knife and scrape out the seeds. Add the seeds and pods to your container and shake to mix. Then, wait. Ideally, give the sugar at least two-three days for the flavors to develop. Feel free to keep the vanilla beans in the sugar indefinitely. Use your vanilla sugar for any recipe that needs an extra dose of vanilla: in pastries, coffee, sprinkles on buttered toast with cinnamon, whatever your heart desires.
I received cookies from three fabulous food bloggers, including Mexican Wedding Cakes with Rumchata, a dozen delicious vanilla sugar cookies studded with dried cranberries and orange zest and dark and decadent chocolate espresso slices.
I had such a great experience participating in the Food Blogger Cookie Swap. If you’d like to be notified of the 2015 event, signup here.
Check out Alex’s recipe below and let me know what you think!